Final good-bye: family member bids farewell to historic Bever Building
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS – C. Anthony “Tony” Bever gave the building that bore his family name one last look.
“I spent quite a bit of time here,” Bever said of the historic Bever Building, 417 First Ave. SE, which was constructed for the Bever family business in 1923. “I’m sorry to see it go.”
Skogman Realty is demolishing the building, along with two neighboring buildings in the Downtown Historic District, to make room for its new headquarters.
Last week, demolition crews razed the former Albert Auto Service – a 1920s-era gas station – and the 1923-built Faulkes Building, a contributing structure in the historic district that most recently housed Sub City. Demolition began on the Bever Building on June 6.
Bever, who lives in rural Marion, said he harbored no ill-will towards the Skogmans, but wished the outcome had been better for the building, where he spent part of his childhood.
Now in his 70s, he recalled as an 8-year-old going into the first-floor corner office of his father and grandfather, where hallway walls lined with marble and terrazzo floors gave the building an opulent feel.
Built for the Bever & Co. investment firm, the building represented another generation of the Bever family in Cedar Rapids, following in the footsteps of patriarch and early city leader, Sampson Bever, for which Bever Park is named.
As a child, Tony Bever became acquainted with employees in the Bishop-Stoddard Cafeteria Co.’s offices, the Ralston-Nelson insurance agency and other companies that made their home in the iconic building.
Engineering company Howard R. Green Co. bought the building in 1959, then sold it nearly 20 years later to attorney Michael Irvine.
Steeped in family and Cedar Rapids history, the Bever Building was constructed to last, with reinforced concrete, front brick with Bedford-cut stone trim, marble in the main hall and stairway, and rooms trimmed in mahogany.
Bever also recalled visiting the depot for the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway, which sat next to the building that currently houses Skogman Realty, when his short-wave radios came in by train.
The Skogmans demolished the BCR&N depot in the 1950s. Later, in 1961, the Union Station was demolished just blocks away to make room for more parking in downtown Cedar Rapids, a loss that residents still decry.
“If your objective is to grow and dispense with other things, then that’s what you do,” Bever said.
Some of the family’s homes had been on the site of the Bever Building and diagonally across the street, which he also recalls seeing as a youth.
His grandfather, James Lorenzo “Ren” Bever – the grandson of family patriarch Sampson Bever – and father, James Denecke Bever, worked together in the family businesses, Park Avenue Realty and Bever and Co.
Tony Bever’s father attended Coe College and served in the U.S. Army in World War II, in England and France, participating in the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach, as well as the Battle of the Bulge. He died in 2006 and his wife, Audrey, died in 2004. Tony Bever’s brother, James Thomas Bever, still lives in the Cedar Rapids area, but their sister, Ann Smith, passed away in 2014.
Their children and grandchildren don’t carry the Bever name, Bever said.
The downtown building was the last to have the Bever name on its nameplate, which was saved from the structure. Two lion statues, which were not original to the building and not considered historically significant, also were saved.
Other items were unable to be salvaged, including the front entrance archway.
“It was well built,” Bever said. “That’s the way buildings were constructed. It wasn’t meant to come apart.”
Skogman plans to build a three-story office building in the coming year after the demolitions take place. Representatives of the family have said that changes needed to make the Bever Building accessible and with an “open office” concept, rather than individual rooms, would have harmed the building’s historical character. Instead, they are demolishing the building.
Even as they tear down the three buildings in the Downtown Historic District, Skogman is receiving state and local financial incentives for the project, with $750,000 in redevelopment tax credits from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, and $800,000 from the city of Cedar Rapids in the form of property tax reimbursement.
Skogman Homes has done work in Cedar Rapids since the 1940s and its current office, next door to the Bever Building, at 411 First Ave. SE, has been purchased by developer Steve Emerson, who plans to restore its historic character.
The loss of the Bever Building, and the neighboring Faulkes Building and service station prompted the State Historic Preservation Office to advise the demolitions will weaken that end of the Downtown Historic District.
“This was just one little piece of history,” Bever said, “but part of the big puzzle.”
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